Maradona needs Argentina to pull off one last miracle in Uruguay

Uruguay v Argentina, World Cup qualifier, October 11, 2009

Uruguay 11/8; Draw 23/10; Argentina 6/4

“The miracle of Saint Palermo,” was how Argentina coach Diego Maradona described the sensational 2-1 win over Peru on Saturday night which kept Los Albiceleste with their fate still in their own hands to secure a place at next summer’s World Cup.

Once Argentina fans have come down from the euphoria of the late win, questions will be asked if Maradona can guide his team to South Africa. (Argentina are 9/1 to win the 2010 World Cup.) After all they only just scraped past the bottom team in South American qualifying in a most unconvincing display. Optimists though will point to a crucial victory being the impetus for what is set to be an even tougher encounter in Montevideo.

Martin Palermo’s (12/1 to score first & Argentina win) tap-in at the back post and subsequent crazy celebrations in the torrential rain at El Monumental was not the only late drama in South American qualifying on Saturday night.

Uruguay pulled off the result of the round with an incredible fight back to keep their own destiny in their own hands with a 2-1 win in Ecuador. After Antonio Valencia had headed the home side into the lead, Luis Suarez (6/4 to score) equalised two minutes later and Diego Forlan (5/1 to score first) held his nerve from the penalty spot four minutes into injury time.

The fall guys from Saturday night are Ecuador who now hope for a draw in this match and to beat already-qualified Chile for the final automatic qualification spot. The maths are a lot clearer for the two protagonists facing off in Uruguay, with a point between them and Argentina in fourth position going into the final game of qualifying. Whilst both Argentina and Uruguay can seal the final qualification place, they could also end up in a play-off spot or even be eliminated altogether which should place this clash on a knife edge.

Uruguay have a very real chance of winning the match and sealing the final qualification spot. They arguably have the in-form strike force in international football and Argentina’s porous defence is unlikely to be able to handle Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. (11/5 for either Forlan or Suarez to score first.) The former is in particularly hot form with 16 goals in 13 games for Ajax this season and two in successive games for the national team.

Crucially Uruguay also have a defender of real quality in Martin Caceres (12/1 to score) who is currently on loan at Juventus from Barcelona. If alongside him Diego Lugano Tota, who plays for Fenerbahce, can also keep the Argentinians quiet, there is no doubt Suarez and Forlan can bang in the goals. (Uruguay are 15/8 to keep a clean sheet.)

For Maradona there are no shortage of selection headaches. Despite claiming three points from Peru, Argentina lacked coherence at times and really struggled to dominate a pretty poor team. Pablo Aimar (12/1 to score last) and Angel Di Maria (16/1 to score last) received rare starts and it would be a surprise if Maradona opts for these two defensively weak midfielders in the winner-takes-all clash.

Argentina undoubtedly have to show defensive resilience and battling qualities on Wednesday night, the likes of which we haven’t seen for some time. The previous match between these two teams, almost exactly a year ago, ended in 2-1 win for Argentina thanks to early goals from Lionel Messi( 6/4 to score) and Sergio Aguero (2/1 to score).

Such is the attacking talent on both sides that this could be a high goal scoring match that could be decided by one clinical striker. The eyes of the world will be on this one, which could be a real humdinger.

101gg predicts: Uruguay 2 – Argentina 3 (25/1)

Uruguay 11/8; Draw 23/10; Argentina 6/4

Full match odds here.